How to select a WiFi router
If you have a broadband connection a WiFi router is an essential device if you want multiple computers and devices to connect to your internet connection hence a WiFi router is the central hub from where your internet is distributed to all your computer and WiFi devices like Cell Phones / Laptops / Computers so it makes a lot of sense to know a few details about the types of WiFi routers before you purchase a router.
There are a lot of variants you need to look before purchasing a WiFi routers and the features change from model to model, you can get a WiFi router on the low end for just Rs 1,400 to around Rs 11,000 for the high end WiFi routers, as you might have noticed there is quite a price gap and with the more expensive routers you get a lot of additional options and features but it is simply not wise to go for the most expensive router coz you might not need all those additional features.
The basic features that you get with every WiFi router is a couple of Ethernet ports generally 4 so you can connect upto 4 wired computers with the router and WiFi radio which provides WiFi (Wireless internet access) to your WiFi enabled devices like Laptops / smartphones.
Ethernet Speed: Generally in the budget WiFi routers the Ethernet ports provided are of 100Mbps this speed is more than enough for normal usage scenarios but if you daily transfer a lot of data couple of GB’s from one wired computer to another then a router that supports Gigabit Ethernet (1000 Mbps) will help makes the transfers a lot faster also if you have other networking devices like NAS (Network Attached Storage) a Gigabit Ethernet connection helps but again routers that support Gigabit Ethernet connection are much more expensive.
WiFi Speeds: Most of the WiFi routers sold these days work on the 2.4 Ghz frequency band and support the N band you might get very cheap routers on sale with ‘G’ band which supports speed upto 54 Mbps and the Basic ‘N’ Band router supports speeds upto 150 Mbps these are single band router, you also get routers that can support theoretical speeds upto 300 Mbps do note that these speeds are theoretical speeds and expect real worlds speeds of around 50% of the rated speeds generally for all WiFi connections, as expect a router which supports the 300 Mbps ‘N ‘ speeds has 2 antennas instead of single antenna that we get with ‘N’ 150 Mbps speeds, as expected the price for 300 Mbps ‘N’ router is a little more but in my opinion these routers offer a much better range and throughput than the basic N 150 based routers.
5 Ghz WiFi Band: As stated in the earlier paragraph most of the routers work on the 2.4 Ghz frequency and they offer pretty decent range but the problem with the 2.4 Ghz is that in heavy urban areas particular in apartments, where lot of people might be already using WiFi routers and hence due to that you WiFi routers range might get significantly reduce due to all the interference and lack of clear channel due to other WiFi routers in that area to solve this issue a new band was released on the 5 Ghz, currently the 5 Ghz band is not that congested so if you live a apartment where you are not getting good WiFi reception / range on 2.4 Ghz band you might need to move to the 5 Ghz
Simultaneous Dual Band Routers: As mentioned above we can have WiFi under two bands the standard 2.4 Ghz and 5 GHz some routers to keep the cost down have the option of 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz but you can enable only one band at a given time, but there was a need of having both bands works coz many of the older devices do not support the 5 Ghz band for Wifi hence we started to see Dual Band routers these routers can simultaneously transmit WiFi signal on 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz at the same time as you can expect dual band routers with gigabit Ethernet connection are one of the most expensive routers in the market.
USB 2.0 Ports: Some of the routers from mid-range also have a USB 2.0 port at the back of the router, and you can attach portable Hard-disk or USB pen drives to the same and store files and access the same from any computer attached to your network so it can act like a Mini NAS device, many of the routers also enable DLNA server for easy media content sharing that is stored on the USB device, so if you have media player like WDTV, PS3 or Xbox 360 you can easily watch movies / media that is stored on that USB device attached to the router.
3G data card support: Some WiFi routers even allow you to add a 3G datacard hence using a single 3G datacard you can get internet access to multiple computers if you router supports the 3G data-card functionality.
Download and Torrent Client: Some of the routers which have the USB port at the back also have a in-built download manager / bit torrent client hence you can download torrents even when you PC is switched off if your router has this functionality.
Guest Network Support: Some of the premium WiFi routers provide an option for adding an additional network with it’s own (SSID) generally called the guest network so if you have a lot of guest you can enable that and give the guest network password to them and they can access the internet but they will not be able to access the other computers on your primary WiFi network, so if you frequently get guest and you do not want them to give access to your primary network look for the guest network feature.
WiFi throughput and overall speeds: It is also very important to note the overall WiFi range offered by the router also it is important to note how the router deals when the load is put on the same for example when multiple computers or WiFi devices are simultaneously connected to the router so do your dude diligence and read up reviews of the specific models of WiFi routers before you purchase one coz not all routers are equal in this regard.
If you plan to use 4-5 Wifi devices simultaneously and a couple of other devices / computers attached to Ethernet port then you might need to purchase a router that has the power to optimally handle the load in these circumstances coz a router is basically a mini computer and budget routers have a low powered processors and little Ram around 8 MB on the other hand some of the high end router have a processor that are in the range of 500-650 Mhz and 64-128 MB Ram hence can handle even heavy loads with multiple simultaneous connections with ease also some routers are friendly with open firmwares like dd-wrt so if you plan to install a third party firmware check if the router supports that.
So these are some of the major things to take into account while purchasing a new WiFi router, if you are looking for a basic router with good functionality then I would suggest the N300 based routers and you can get them below Rs 2,500 but if you require additional functionality the prices of the routers start going up as the feature list get added, I will be doing reviews for some high end Dual band Wifi routers available in the Indian market this month.